Preps Talk

Team USA perfect through qualifying behind Durant, Carmelo

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Team USA perfect through qualifying behind Durant, Carmelo

As expected, the United States men's basketball team had a relatively easy time in the qualifying stages of the 2012 Olympic Games, winning all five games and earning the No. 1 seed from Group A.
The United States, led by Kevin Durant's 18.6 points per game, won their five games by an average of 38.2 points. The closest an opponent got to taking down the top-ranked team in the world was Lithuania, who led in the fourth quarter before falling 99-94 to the Americans.
Durant has picked up right where he left off after leading the NBA in scoring last year. He has made a ridiculous 20-of-33 3-pointers, 15-of-17 free throws and is still second on the team in rebounding and fourth in assists. His nine steals are second only to Chris Paul (11). Though LeBron James and Kobe Bryant took most of the pre-Olympic headlines, Durant has been the team's MVP through five games.
And for all the discussion that made those headlines, about whether the 2012 team could defeat the 1992 Dream Team, this year's team had an "Angola-like" performance of their own, defeating Nigeria 156-73 last week. The 156 points and 83-point winning margin were both Olympic records, as were the Americans' 3-pointers (26) field goals (59) and field goal percentage (71 percent).
Team USA's most impressive single-game performance also came against Nigeria, as Carmelo Anthony, America's second leading scorer during qualifying at 17.4 points, poured in 37 points in just 14 minutes in the blowout. He made 10-of-12 3-pointers in the record-setting performance.
LeBron James has played facilitator for much of the first five games, averaging 4.4 assists per game thus far. But he has also shown the ability to take over games down the stretch, specifically when he scored nine points in the final four minutes against Lithuania.
And for all the talk of whether the Americans could shoot from outside and rebound, Team USA silenced those critics. The Americans shot a blistering 47 percent from beyond the arc and lead all teams with 44.4 rebounds per game. They also had a rebounding margin of 8.8.
Perhaps the biggest surprise through five qualifying games has been Kevin Love. The 6-foot-11 big man was one of the last players to make the team, but finished third on the team in scoring (13.0 points), led the team in rebounding (6.4) and was tied for third in 3-point makes (8) in qualifying play.
Even 19-year-old Anthony Davis has looked the part in London, shooting 11-of-14 from the floor and averaging 3.5 rebounds per game in 11.3 minutes.
A surprise in the wrong direction has been Kobe Bryant. After the five-time NBA champion averaged 15.0 points in Beijing in 2008, Bryant has averaged just 9.4 points on a team-worst 38.9 percent from the field.
Team USA will play Australia on Wednesday and, if they win, will play the winner of Brazil and Argentina. Spain is on the other side of the bracket and is considered the odds-on favorite to play USA in the gold medal game.

NBC Sports Chicago to carry live coverage of the 2018 IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships

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NBC Sports Chicago

NBC Sports Chicago to carry live coverage of the 2018 IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships

Network to televise LIVE coverage of the Class 1A-4A IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships from Redbird Arena in Normal, IL over the next two weekends

PLUS -- Live streaming coverage of EVERY IHSA Girls Basketball State Championship telecast – including surrounding pre/postgame coverage – to be made available to authenticated subscribers on NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive and via the NBC Sports app

NBCSportsChicago.com/Preps to air highlight packages from all semifinal, consolation, and championship games; “High School Lites” Girls Championships specials to air Feb. 23 & Mar. 2 at 11:00 PM CT

Chicago, IL (February 20, 2018) NBC Sports Chicago, the home of the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Championships, will be airing LIVE cross-platform coverage of the 2018 IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships on Friday, February 23 & Saturday, February 24 (Class 1A & 2A) and Friday, March 2 & Saturday, March 3 (Class 3A & 4A) from Illinois State University’s Redbird Arena in Normal, IL.  Over the next two weekends, Illinois preps hoops fans can look forward to seeing every action-packed semifinal, consolation and championship battle starting Friday at 11:00 AM CT featuring four, live semifinal match-ups, along with a pair of consolation and two huge state championship title games on Saturday.  Plus – EVERY game will be telecast in a high-definition (HD) format.  The 2018 IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships will be produced by the IHSA & PlayOn! Sports.

In addition -- EVERY IHSA Girls Basketball State Championship telecast on NBC Sports Chicago, including surrounding pre/postgame coverage, will be streamed LIVE on NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive and will be made available via the NBC Sports app on tablets and smart phones.  Authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers can watch live IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships action from anywhere in the United States.  The live streaming service is currently available to customers of Comcast/Xfinity, DIRECTV, DISH Network, AT&T U-verse, Mediacom, RCN, WOW!, Time Warner Cable and Charter among numerous other carriers.  In addition, NBC Sports Chicago is also available on numerous digital streaming services including DIRECTV NOW, Hulu, fuboTV, Sling TV, CenturyLink Stream, PlayStation Vue, and YouTube TV.  For a full list of carriers and more information about NBC Sports Chicago’s live streaming service, viewers are urged to visit nbcsportschicago.com/live-faq.

IMPORTANT NOTES:

  • Several IHSA Girls Basketball State Championship telecasts will all air live on NBC Sports Chicago+…NBC Sports Chicago+ is located on Comcast/Xfinity ch. 201 in the Chicago area and in South Bend, IN, and on ch. 285 in Comcast/Xfinity’s Peoria, Springfield, Rockford and Champaign markets…viewers are urged to visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s special “Channel Finder” section (http://www.nbcsports.com/chicago/channel-finder ) or IHSA.org for complete channel location details for ALL games throughout the state. 
  • Fans are also strongly urged to interact via Twitter throughout the entire weekend by utilizing the hashtag #IHSA to share their comments and showcase their school spirit for their favorite teams. 

In addition, NBCSportsChicago.com’s IHSA Preps section (NBCSportsChicago.com/preps) will feature highlight packages from all games over the next two weekends, plus – NBC Sports Chicago viewers can look forward to a special championship editions of High School Lites on Friday, February 23 & Friday, March 2 (both nights live at 11:00 PM) for a complete rundown of every girls championship game, including expanded highlights and player/coaches interviews, along with the latest highlights and playoff scenarios for the upcoming IHSA Boys Basketball State Championships, which will take place the weekends of March 8-10 & March 17-18 at Carver Arena in Peoria, IL.  (NOTE: Full schedule details regarding NBC Sports Chicago’s live coverage of the 2017 Boys Basketball State Championships will be announced the week of March 5.)

The following schedule details NBC Sports Chicago’s coverage of the 2018 IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships over the next two weekends (all times Central Time) (play-by-play/color analyst/sideline reporting teams are in parentheses):

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 23

11:00 AM –      Class 1A Semifinal #1: Okaw Valley (Bethany) vs. Stockton (Lee Hall/Chloe Barnes/Elise Menaker)

12:45 PM –      Class 1A Semifinal #2: Lebanon vs. Schlarman (Danville) (Lee Hall/Chloe Barnes/Elise Menaker)

5:30 PM –        Class 2A Semifinal #1: Harlan (Chicago) vs. Eureka (Dave Bernhard/Patricia Babcock-McGraw/Elise Menaker)

7:15 PM –        Class 2A Semifinal #2: Marshall (Chicago) vs. Teutopolis (Dave Bernhard/Patricia Babcock-McGraw/Elise Menaker)

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 24

11:00 AM –      Class 1A: CONSOLATION GAME (Teams TBD) (Lee Hall/Chloe Barnes/Elise Menaker)

12:45 PM –      Class 1A: CHAMPIONSHIP GAME (Teams TBD) (Lee Hall/Chloe Barnes/Elise Menaker)

5:30 PM –        Class 2A: CONSOLATION GAME (Teams TBD) (Dave Bernhard/Patricia Babcock-McGraw/Elise Menaker)

(NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER   for the exact channel location in your area)

7:15 PM –        Class 2A: CHAMPIONSHIP GAME (Teams TBD) (Dave Bernhard/Patricia Babcock-McGraw/Elise Menaker)

(NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER   for the exact channel location in your area)

FRIDAY, MARCH 2

11:00 AM –      Class 3A: Semifinal #1 (Teams TBD) (Dave Bernhard/Katy Winge/Camron Smith)

(NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER   for the exact channel location in your area)

12:45 PM –      Class 3A: Semifinal #2 (Teams TBD) (Dave Bernhard/Katy Winge/Camron Smith)

(NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER   for the exact channel location in your area)

5:30 PM –        Class 4A: Semifinal #1 (Teams TBD) (Nate Baliva/TBA/Katy Winge)

(NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER   for the exact channel location in your area)

7:15 PM –        Class 4A: Semifinal #2 (Teams TBD) (Nate Baliva/TBA/Katy Winge)

(NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER   for the exact channel location in your area)

SATURDAY, MARCH 3

11:00 AM –      Class 3A: CONSOLATION GAME (Teams TBD) (Mike Bradd/Katy Winge/Camron Smith)

12:45 PM –      Class 3A: CHAMPIONSHIP GAME (Teams TBD) (Mike Bradd/Katy Winge/Camron Smith)

(NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER   for the exact channel location in your area)

5:30 PM –        Class 4A: CONSOLATION GAME (Teams TBD) (Nate Baliva/TBA/Katy Winge)

(NOTE: This game will air in its entirety on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER  for the exact channel location in your area)…ALSO, this game will be joined in progress on the main NBC Sports Chicago channel location immediately following “Blackhawks Postgame Live”

7:15 PM –        Class 4A: CHAMPIONSHIP GAME (Teams TBD) (Nate Baliva/TBA/Katy Winge)

2017 Bears position grades: Outside Linebacker

2017 Bears position grades: Outside Linebacker

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER

2017 grade: C-

Level of need: High

Decisions to be made on: Willie Young (contract), Pernell McPhee (contract), Sam Acho (free agent), Lamarr Houston (free agent)

Possible free agent targets: DeMarcus Lawrence, Ezekiel Ansah, Adrian Clayborn, Connor Barwin, Kony Ealy

 

Would you believe that no true outside linebacker in this year’s free agent class had more sacks than Lamarr Houston did last year? Houston and the Rams’ Connor Barwin each had five, underscoring how rare it is for an elite edge rusher to make it to free agency.

 

There are a few that, for now, are due to hit the open market. DeMarcus Lawrence racked up 14 ½ sacks with the Dallas Cowboys last year, but played as a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. The same goes for the Detroit Lions’ Ezekiel Ansah, who had a dozen sacks in 2017. But if either reaches free agency, it’d be a surprise -- again, pass-rushers with that kind of production rarely escape the franchise tag.

 

If Lawrence or Ansah do become available, the Bears would likely be a part of the feeding frenzy to sign either player. Whether they could convince either player that 1) Chicago is a desirable destination and 2) that they’d be just as, if not more, productive in a 3-4 base instead of a 4-3 is a different question.

 

The same goes for Atlanta’s Adrian Clayborn, who had 9 ½ sacks last year (including a ridiculous six-sack game) but played in a 4-3 and may not be looking to leave Atlanta. The Falcons, though, could be in a tricky salary cap situation with defensive lineman Dontari Poe and longtime kicker Matt Bryant both due to hit free agency.

 

Fangio’s scheme is malleable, though, and any of these players would be a fit in it one way or another. Spotrac estimates Lawrence would command an average annual salary of $14 million per year, while Ansah would be slightly lower at $13.2 million. Either way, either of those guys could command the biggest contract Pace has given a defensive player (although the Bears were prepared to give cornerback A.J. Bouye more than the $13.5 million average annual salary that he’s receiving with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

 

Both Willie Young and Pernell McPhee could be released this off-season, too, to free up cap room. Cutting Young would net $4.5 million in cap savings, while a release of McPhee would free up a little over $7 million, according to Spotrac. Of the two, Young may be the more likely guy to stick around, despite coming off a season-ending triceps injury. While he’ll be 33 next September, Young has 9 ½ sacks in the last two year while McPhee has eight (while playing in more games than Young). This may not be an either-or situation, though -- the Bears could very well cut both.

 

Houston is an interesting option to retain after he racked up four sacks in five games after returning to the Bears last December. He’s struggled to stay healthy in his career, though, and the Bears probably wouldn’t re-sign him and count on the 30-year-old to be a starter in 2018, especially considering the uncertain recovery status of Leonard Floyd. Sam Acho could be brought back as a solid depth option, too.

 

The success of this unit, though, will hinge more on Floyd than whatever the Bears are able to do in free agency or the draft. The Bears need their 2016 first-round pick to A) stay healthy and B) improve as an edge rusher after injuries have limited him to 22 games and 11 ½ sacks in his first two seasons. If every team needs three reliable pass-rushers, the Bears will need to pencil in Floyd next to Akiem Hicks (who, for what it’s worth, is more of a run-stuffer, but did total 8 ½ sacks in 2017) and then either a free agent or a draft pick.

 

The most likely route to land that third pass rusher, though, is probably through the draft unless a top talent like Lawrence, Ansah or Clayborn hits free agency -- and then matches with the Bears.